Enoch Arnold Bennett was born in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent on the 27th May 1867. His infancy was spent in genteel poverty, which gave way to prosperity as his father succeeded as a solicitor. From this provincial background he became a novelist. His enduring fame is as a Chronicler of the Potteries towns, the setting and inspiration of some of his most famous and enduring literary work and the place where he grew up.
Bennett did not pursue a career as a writer until after leaving his father's practice and moving to London in 1889 when he won a literary competition conducted by the magazine "Tit Bits". Encouraged to take up journalism full-time, he became assistant editor of "Woman" in 1894. Just over four years later his first novel, "A Man from the North", was published to critical acclaim. This was followed in 1902 by "Anna of the Five Towns", the first of a succession of stories which detailed life in the Potteries and displayed his unique vision of life in its towns.
Between the end of 1903 and 1911 Bennett lived mainly in Paris. In Paris he met Marguerite Souliť whom he married in 1907. During his eight years in Paris he continued to enjoy critical success with the publication of many novels including "The Old Wives' Tale" (1908). After a visit to America in 1911, where he was acclaimed as no other visiting writer had been since Dickens, he returned to England where the "Old Wives' Tale" was reappraised and hailed to be a masterpiece.
In 1921 he separated from Marguerite. The following year he fell in love with the actress Dorothy Cheston. They lived together until his death. She changed her last name to Bennett, although they were never legally married. They had one child, Virginia, born in 1926. In 1931 he became ill during a trip to France, returned to London, and died of typhoid fever. His ashes are buried in Burslem cemetery. Their daughter, Virginia Eldin, who eventually went to live in France, became President of the Arnold Bennett Society.
Although Arnold Bennett never returned to the Potteries to live, he never forgot the debt which he owed to his birthplace for giving him a unique setting for so many of his novels, a setting which he enhanced with his penetrating description of people and places. (Bennett made up names for his Five Towns, but these names left nobody in doubt about the true identity of the towns. His Turnhill is really Tunstall, Bursley is Burslem, Hanbridge is Hanley, Knype is Stoke, and Longshaw is Longton.) It is perhaps unfortunate that Bennett felt that "The Five Towns" sounded better than "The Six Towns", and thus relegated the sixth town of the Potteries, the town of Fenton, almost to oblivion. As a chronicler of The Potteries he assured a permanent place in English literature for the district.
His penultimate novel, The Imperial Palace, was set in the Savoy Hotel. To mark the book's importance as a great literary work, the hotel created the Omelette Arnold Bennett, which has remained on its menu ever since. (Omelette Arnold Bennett was also a permanent feature on the menu at the Mirabelle, 56 Curzon Street, London until the Mirabelle closed in 2008.)
BOOKS AND PLAYS BY ARNOLD BENNETT
A Great Man
A London Life: A Play In Three Acts And Nine Scenes
A Man From The North
Anna Of The Five Towns
Body And Soul: A Play In Four Acts
Books And Persons
Cupid And Commonsense: A Play In Four Acts
Denry The Audacious
Don Juan De Marana: A Play In Four Acts
Feast Of St. Friend
Flora: A Play In Three Acts
From The Log Of The Velsa
Helen With The High Hand
How To Live On 24 Hours A Day
How To Make The Best Of Life
Journal Of Things New And Old
Judith: A Play In Three Acts
Liberty: A Statement Of The British Case
Literary Taste: How To Form It
Milestones: A Play In Three Acts by Arnold Bennett and Edward Knoblock
Mr Prohack: A Comedy In Three Acts, by Arnold Bennett and Edward Knoblock
Over There: War Scenes On The Western Front
Polite Farces For The Drawing Room
Self And Self-Management: Essays About Existing
Teresa Of Watling Street
The Arnold Bennett Omnibus Book
The Authorís Craft
The Bright Island
The City Of Pleasure
The Gates Of Wrath
The Grand Babylon Hotel
The Great Adventure: A Play Of Fantasy In Four Acts
The Grim Smile Of The Five Towns
The Lionís Share
The Love Match: A Play In Five Scenes
The Matador Of The Five Towns
The Old Adam
The Old Wivesí Tale
The Plain Man And His Wife
The Price Of Love
The Savour Of Life: Essays In Gusto
The Sinews Of War
The Statue by Arnold Bennett and Eden Philipotts
The Strange Vanguard
The Title: A Comedy In Three Acts
Things That Have Interested Me
Things That Have Interested Me: Second Series
Things That Have Interested Me: Third Series
Truth About An Author
What The Public Wants: A Play In Four Acts
Whom God Hath Joined
Your United States
"Good taste is better than bad taste, but bad taste is better than no taste."
"Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism."
"The price of justice is eternal publicity."
"There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul."